Yes, we had one of these for the first time we faced Toronto FC back in April, but after being approached about exchanging another set of questions, I felt that many people still have questions they'd like to see answered about TFC. Once again, Waking the Red editor Duncan Fletcher and I exchanged questions, and you can find the companion post here.
1) When Houston and Toronto played last, TFC was in the middle of a string of matches in which they gave up an equalizer or go-ahead goal late on. Has this stopped yet, or are you still waiting for your luck to turn?
Nope, that's still happening. Didn't happen last week, but that was against DC so hardly counts. 5 of the 7 games since we last played Houston have seen TFC concede in the last 10 minutes, 4 times it cost us points.
I wouldn't in any way call it bad luck though, there's very clearly a lack of mental toughness and the whole late goal thing seems to be very much in the team's head. They sit back and defend more, abandoning the game that's served them well up to that point and just inviting more pressure and from there it's practically inevitable. There's been individual mistakes galore, ie against Colorado, two defenders independently fell over in the box presenting Edson Buddle with an easy chance, and horrible panicked set piece defending, i.e. everyone run to the ball and leave Jack McInerney on his own to receive the flick on. Whatever the reason, it's become the one big overarching theme to the season, taking away from any positives that do exist, which brings us to question 2.
2) I realize that to say the season hasn't started like y'all had hoped for it to start would be an understatement, but has there been a silver lining to 2013 so far?
There's a few signs of hope if you look hard enough, primarily in our midfield. So far a lot of Kevin Payne and Ryan Nelsen's signings have had a temporary feel, either loan signings or older players that are clearly stop gap measures, not part of the long term plan. One of the few obvious long term signings is our young DP form Argentina, Matias Laba. He's a defensive midfielder, so whether that's worth the DP tag is up for debate, but he has looked very good so far. A good defensive player who's not afraid of a hard tackle or a blatant yellow card offence if the situation warrants it, he's also technically proficient, calm and composed on the ball and able to keep things ticking along with a quick simple pass, he's definitely a keeper.
Another bright spot is Jonathan Osorio. From the Toronto area, he spent quite a bit of time in Uruguay before coming back to Toronto last year at which point TFC signed him to their academy, and then promoted him to the first team this year as a home grown player. Loophole-tastic. 20 years old, he's scored 3 goals in limited action, has vaulted himself to the top of our 'exciting young player' list, earned his first Canada cap in a friendly and currently starts on the right hand side of the midfield where he's had a couple of good games, linking up well with the likes of Laba and Luis Silva ahead of him.
They both look like they could be very good players for TFC for a good few years, a couple of pieces of the puzzle falling into place, it's not much, but we'll take what we can get at this stage.
3) It's getting to that point in the summer where the transfers start to come and go. In your eyes, what's the most likely move that TFC makes this year (either in or out)?
Well we've already had the usual TFC big promise dance, recent talk of impressive players coming in, followed up with the 'he just signed for someone else' line we've heard many times before. There will probably be many players brought in, there's been a few rumours from the preposterous (Carlos Tevez) to the realistic. There's improvement needed all over the place so it's difficult to guess exactly where reinforcements will come. As for going out, Danny Califf is pretty clearly not in Nelsen's plans going forward so if they can find a trading partner for him, he'll be out, and rumours are that Stefan Frei is also available as TFC look to free up cap space.
4) And, as usual, your expected formation?
Joe Bendik: Ryan Richter, Gale Agbossoumonde, Steven Caldwell, Darren O'Dea: Matias Laba, Jeremy Hall, Jonathan Osorio, Bobby Convey; Luis Silva, Robert Earnshaw. Danny Koevermans to get some minutes off the subs bench.
I'll guess 2-2, Houston with at least one late goal.
Once again, I thank Duncan for his time in answering my questions, and again, I point you towards his Twitteraccount (if you didn't the first time around).